Malaysian Trafficking Camps Abandoned after Thai Crackdown

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Policemen carry bags of human remains found at human trafficking camps near theThai border in northern MalaysiaHuman remains found at trafficking camps near the Thai border in Malaysia.

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Malaysian police believe at least two of the jungle camps where they have found nearly 140 graves of suspected human trafficking victims were abandoned in the last two to three weeks, around the time that Thailand launched a crackdown on people smugglers.

The first body removed from the site had been dead for around the same amount of time and may have been left unburied as the traffickers fled in a hurry from the area near the Thai border, the local police chief said.

The dense jungles of southern Thailand and northern Malaysia have been a major stop-off point for smugglers bringing people to Southeast Asia by boat from Myanmar, most of them Rohingya Muslims who say they are fleeing persecution, and Bangladesh.

Malaysian authorities said on Monday they had found 139 graves, some containing more than one body, around 28 camps scattered along a 50-km (30 mile) stretch of the border in the northern state of Perlis.

The grisly find follows the discovery of shallow graves on the Thai side of the border at the beginning of May, which helped trigger a regional crisis. The find led to a crackdown on the camps by Thai authorities, after which traffickers abandoned thousands of migrants in overloaded boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.

State news agency Bernama quoted Malaysia’s police chief, Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar, as saying that the camps were thought to have been occupied since 2013, and two were “only abandoned between two and three weeks ago”.

Khalid told reporters on Monday that police had been “shocked by the cruelty” of the fenced camps, where he said there were signs of torture.

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Held For Ransom

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are ferried by traffickers through southern Thailand each year, and in recent years it has been common for them to be held in remote camps along the border with Malaysia until a ransom is paid for their freedom.

Past investigations have shown ransoms demands ranging from $1,200 to $1,800, a fortune for impoverished migrants used to living on a dollar or two a day.

Police forensic teams were exhuming the first bodies on Tuesday; on Monday evening police had removed a badly decomposed body found unburied in a shack at one of the camps.

“The victim could have died and the syndicate did not have time to bury the body as they were rushing to leave the camp,” Bernama quoted district police chief Rizani Che Ismail as saying.

One of the grave sites was just 100 metres or so from the site where twenty-six bodies were exhumed in Thailand’s Songkhla province in early May, national police chief Khalid said on Monday.

“We don’t know if there is a link between the Thai camps and Malaysia camps,” Phuttichart Ekachan, deputy chief of Thailand’s Provincial Police Region 9 said.

“It is possible that because of the Thai crackdown some of the camps moved and some of them (migrants) then walked over or escaped to the Thai side. It is possible but it isn’t something we have been able to confirm.”

Residents in the town of Wang Kelian, on the Malaysian side of the border, said they were used to seeing migrants in the area.

“They are often starving, not eaten for weeks,” said Abdul Rahman Mahmud, a resident who runs a small hostel. “They eat seeds or leaves or whatever they can find. It’s a real pity and it’s sad to see this.”

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Sources:  MSN, Reuters, Alex Richardson, Anuradha Raghu, Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Pracha Hariraksapitak and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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Hong Kong Maid’s Exposure of “Modern Day Slavery” Garners NYU Scholarship

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Xyza Cruz Bacani, 28, poses on the street with a camera in Macau.

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A Filipina maid in Hong Kong has published stark photographs of burned and beaten domestic workers to highlight the “modern slavery” she says has long been the city’s shameful secret.

“Hong Kong is a very modern, successful city but people treat their helpers like slaves,” said Xyza Cruz Bacani, whose black and white portraits won her a scholarship from the Magnum Foundation to start studying at New York University this month. “The abuse happens behind doors. It’s common but no one talks about it, so I want to tell their stories, I want to tell people it’s not OK to treat your domestic workers that way.”

Bacani is one of the 330,000 domestic workers in the former British colony, most of them from the Philippines and Indonesia. She told how maids are frequently forced to sleep on toilets, kitchen floors, cabinet tops or even baby-changing tables because they are not given beds. Many work up to 19-hour days. Some are underpaid or not paid at all. Others are denied food or beaten, she said.

“It was a big shock to me when I listened to their stories and they told me they slept on toilets, that their boss slapped them or their boss didn’t even feed them,” Bacani, a self-taught photographer, said. “It shocked me how people could treat other people like that. It’s very barbaric. When I talk about it I feel angry.”

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Bethune House - Xyza Cruz BacaniThe Bethune House shelter for abused domestic workers in Hong Kong

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Bethune House Shelter for Abused Domestic Workers - Hong Kong - Xyza-Cruz-BacaniRescued captive domestic labor slaves turn to each other for solace when the mental anguish of their horrific treatment grows too much to bear alone.

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Shelter For Abused Workers

Bacani, who comes from a village in Nueva Vizcaya, moved to Hong Kong when she was 19, giving up her nursing studies so she could help pay for her younger brother and sister’s schooling. For the last decade she has worked alongside her mother for an Australian-Chinese businesswoman in the affluent Mid-Levels neighborhood on Hong Kong island.

She rises at 5:30 most mornings, serves breakfast, cleans the apartment and looks after her boss’s six grandchildren, who visit almost daily. But whether she is shopping in the market or taking the children to the park, she always has her camera in her bag.

Last year Bacani volunteered at Bethune House, a shelter for abused domestic helpers, and was horrified by what she saw. “Many work until 1 a.m. and start again at 5. They work every day without stopping. I have friends who are underpaid and others have been physically hurt,” she said. “It’s modern slavery. It’s 2015 and people should be more educated, but still it happens.”

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Shirley - Abused Hong Kong Filipina Maid - Xyza Cruz BacaniShirley the abused Hong Kong Filipina maid featured on the CNN website.

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Shirley the Abused Filipina Maid in Hong Kong - Photo by Xyza Cruz BacaniThanks to Xyza Cruz Bacani and CNN, Shirley received fair compensation for her injuries sustained while in domestic servitude.

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Third Degree Burns

Bacani’s most shocking photos are of a Filipina woman called Shirley who suffered extensive third degree burns when a pot of boiling soup fell on her after someone left it on a rack. Her boss said it was an accident, but Bacani says he refused Shirley medical leave and fired her after she fainted.

The maid started legal proceedings but appeared to be getting nowhere. Bacani says things changed when the CNN website reproduced her photos of Shirley’s burns. “After we published some of the images her boss paid her compensation for her injuries, her dismissal and three years of salary because she cannot work,” Bacani said.

Shirley’s story is not uncommon. The abuse suffered by the city’s domestic workers made headlines this year when a Hong Kong woman was jailed for six years for attacking and abusing her Indonesian maids and threatening to kill their relatives. The case sparked calls for Hong Kong’s government to revise its policies on migrant workers.

Campaigners say domestic workers are often reluctant to report abuse for fear of being deported, trapping them in a cycle of exploitation.

The government stipulates employers should provide reasonable accommodation, free food and a minimum monthly wage of HK$4,110 ($530). But Bacani says many maids are paid less, especially Indonesians who are often treated worse than Filipinas, partly because of the language barrier.

She describes herself as “one of the few lucky ones.” She says her boss is a “great lady” who encouraged her to apply for the Magnum program, which aims to help photographers tell stories that can advance human rights in their home countries.

Bacani plans to return to Hong Kong later this year to mount an exhibition of her images of domestic workers. “Awareness brings change,” she says. “I hope my work can change people’s perspective on domestic workers and help end this modern slavery.”

For more examples of her work, visit Bacani’s website located at:

http://www.xyzacruzbacani.com/

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Trafficked sex slaves wait outside the Wild Cat Night Club on Lockhart Road in Wan Chai, Hong Kong’s red-light district. (Photo by Xyza Cruz Bacani)

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Sources:  MSN, Newscom/Reuters, Emma Batha, Bobby Yip, Katie Nguyen, Thomson Reuters Foundation

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Sex Trafficking 101

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Teen prostitutesA teen prostitute reads in her cell at the Clark County Detention Center.

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Sex trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years. Enactment of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) made sex trafficking a serious violation of Federal law. The TVPA also recognizes labor trafficking, which is discussed in a separate fact sheet.

As defined by the TVPA, the term ‘commercial sex act’ means any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.

The TVPA recognizes that traffickers use psychological and well as physical coercion and bondage, and it defines coercion to include: threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.

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ITALY FREEING SEX SLAVES________________________________________

Victims of Sex Trafficking and What They Face

Victims of sex trafficking can be women or men, girls or boys, but the majority are women and girls. There are a number of common patterns for luring victims into situations of sex trafficking, including:

o  A promise of a good job in another country
o  A false marriage proposal turned into a bondage situation
o  Being sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands, boyfriends
o  Being kidnapped by traffickers

Sex traffickers frequently subject their victims to debt-bondage, an illegal practice in which the traffickers tell their victims that they owe money (often relating to the victims’ living expenses and transport into the country) and that they must pledge their personal services to repay the debt.

Sex traffickers use a variety of methods to “condition” their victims including starvation, confinement, beatings, physical abuse, rape, gang rape, threats of violence to the victims and the victims’ families, forced drug use and the threat of shaming their victims by revealing their activities to their family and their families’ friends.

Victims face numerous health risks. Physical risks include drug and alcohol addiction; physical injuries (broken bones, concussions, burns, vaginal/anal tearings); traumatic brain injury (TBI) resulting in memory loss, dizziness, headaches, numbness; sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, UTIs, pubic lice); sterility, miscarriages, menstrual problems; other diseases (e.g., TB, hepatitis, malaria, pneumonia); and forced or coerced abortions.

Psychological harms include mind/body separation/disassociated ego states, shame, grief, fear, distrust, hatred of men, self-hatred, suicide, and suicidal thoughts. Victims are at risk for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – acute anxiety, depression, insomnia, physical hyper-alertness, self-loathing that is long-lasting and resistant to change (complex-PTSD).

Victims may also suffer from traumatic bonding – a form of coercive control in which the perpetrator instills in the victim fear as well as gratitude for being allowed to live.

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Teen Prostitutes by FNB Stadium, Johannesburg, Africa, 11-2-13________________________________________

Types of Sex Trafficking

Victims of trafficking are forced into various forms of commercial sexual exploitation including prostitution, pornography, stripping, live-sex shows, mail-order brides, military prostitution and sex tourism.

Victims trafficked into prostitution and pornography are usually involved in the most exploitive forms of commercial sex operations. Sex trafficking operations can be found in highly-visible venues such as street prostitution, as well as more underground systems such as closed-brothels that operate out of residential homes.

Sex trafficking also takes place in a variety of public and private locations such as massage parlors, spas, strip clubs and other fronts for prostitution. Victims may start off dancing or stripping in clubs and then be coerced into situations of prostitution and pornography.

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United Nations Have a Heart for Victims of Human Trafficking Poster________________________________________

Assistance for Victims of Sex Trafficking

When victims of trafficking are identified, the U.S. government can help them adjust their immigration status, and obtain support and assistance in rebuilding their lives in the United States through various programs. By certifying victims of trafficking, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) enables trafficking victims who are non-U.S. citizens to receive federally funded benefits and services to the same extent as a refugee. Victims of trafficking who are U.S. citizens do not need to be certified to receive benefits. As U.S. citizens, they may already be eligible for many benefits.

Through HHS, victims can access benefits and services including food, health care and employment assistance. Certified victims of trafficking can obtain access to services that provide English language instruction and skills training for job placement. Since many victims are reluctant to come forward for fear of being deported, one of HHS’ most important roles is to connect victims with non-profit organizations prepared to assist them and address their specific needs. These organizations can provide counseling, case management and benefit coordination.

If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. This hotline will help you determine if you have encountered victims of human trafficking, will identify local resources available in your community to help victims, and will help you coordinate with local social service organizations to help protect and serve victims so they can begin the process of restoring their lives.

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Sources:  Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Los Angeles Times, Francine Orr, the Associated Press, Andrew Medichini

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A Look At Labor Trafficking In Domestic Servitude

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Rescued Domestic Servitude Slave Jonalyn From the PhilippinesRescued domestic servitude slave Jonalyn from the Philippines tells her story.

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Domestic workers perform work within their employers’ households, and provide services such as cooking, cleaning, child care, elder care, gardening and other household work. Domestic workers may or may not live in their employer’s homes. Victims of domestic servitude commonly work 10 to 16 hours a day for little to no pay.

Domestic workers may be U.S. citizens, undocumented immigrants, or foreign nationals with specific visas types. The following visa types are common: A-3, G-5, NATO-7 or B-1. Victims of domestic servitude in the U.S. are most often foreign national women with or without documentation living in the home of their employer. Men and boys may also be victims, but these cases are less common.

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When Does it Become Trafficking?

A domestic work situation becomes trafficking when the employer uses force, fraud, or coercion to maintain control over the worker and to cause the worker to believe that he or she has no other choice but to continue with the work. Common elements of force, fraud, or coercion in domestic servitude situations include:

Force: Physical and/or sexual abuse; restrictions on movement; restricted communication with family or friends; constant surveillance; lack of treatment for work related injuries, sleep deprivation.

Fraud: False promises of a different job; false promises of educational opportunities; non-payment, underpayment or wage theft; visa fraud; false or altered contracts.

Coercion: Threats of harm to victim’s family or friends; debt manipulation; threats of deportation; ; document confiscation; pattern of verbal or psychological abuse design to elicit cooperation.

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Victim Vulnerabilities

Human trafficking spans all victim demographics and the vulnerabilities traffickers exploit are unique and specific to each victim (e.g. a developmental disorder, past child abuse, cultural beliefs). However, the NHTRC sees recurring vulnerabilities within the domestic work industry. Some examples of these include (and are not limited by):

Immigration Status – The National Domestic Worker’s Alliance reports that 65% of domestic workers in the United States are immigrants or people of color. Many victims of trafficking in domestic work are recruited by traffickers, and often through family or community ties. Once in the United States, traffickers often use the threat of deportation as well as document confiscation to maintain control of foreign national domestic workers.

Some domestic workers hold special visas which tie their immigration status to a single employer. If a domestic worker with an A-3, G-5 or NATO-7 visa leaves an abusive situation, he or she becomes undocumented and risks deportation. Traffickers frequently use victims’ unfamiliarity with U.S. laws and customs to make them believe there is danger in reporting their trafficking situation to law enforcement or seek help from social service providers.

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Industry Vulnerabilities

Traffickers conduct their trafficking operations in a wide range of industries, utilizing both legitimate and illegitimate venues and means of operation. Various industries are faced with challenges or weakness that can be used by traffickers as enabling factors for human trafficking. Examples of recurring vulnerabilities within the domestic work industry include (and are not limited to):

Exclusion from certain labor laws – Domestic work is particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to their exclusion from federal laws governing overtime pay, a safe and healthy work environment, workplace discrimination, and the right to organize and bargain collectively. Recently, some states have stepped in to cover gaps, passing domestic workers’ rights laws.

Isolation – By definition, domestic work occurs within the confines of a residential home. Victims within domestic work may have extremely limited or monitored interaction with others in the community, such as neighbors, school staff, or postal workers.

The NHTRC has received calls from domestic workers were required to live in their employer’s home and never left the premise of the residence. This level of isolation can be exploited by employers who proactively seek to limit victim’s interactions with the outside world and limit access to technology.

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Sources: Polaris, the United Nations

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TIP Defined: What Is Trafficking In Persons?

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Child Soldier With Assault Rifle - AK-47A child soldier in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda

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TIP is a worldwide problem posing a transnational threat involving violations of basic human rights. TIP is a leading source of profits for organized crime, together with drugs and weapons, generating billions of dollars. TIP affects virtually every country in the world.

TIP is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person to provide labor or services or commercial sex. TIP involves exploitation of all types. TIP can include elements of recruiting, harboring, transportation, providing or obtaining a person for the purpose of exploitation. The three most common forms of trafficking are: 1) Labor Trafficking, 2) Sex Trafficking and 3) Child Soldiering.

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1) Labor Trafficking

• Labor or service compelled by force, fraud, or coercion
• Victims found in any location or industry: factories, farms, construction, restaurants, mines, or personal homes
• Children are also labor trafficking victims
• Debt bondage: using a debt to compel labor from a person

Recent studies show the majority of human trafficking in the world takes the form of forced labor. Also known as involuntary servitude, forced labor may result when unscrupulous employers exploit workers made more vulnerable by high rates of unemployment, poverty, crime, discrimination, corruption, political conflict, or cultural acceptance of the practice. Immigrants are particularly vulnerable, but individuals also may be forced into labor in their own countries.

Female victims of forced or bonded labor, especially women and girls in domestic servitude, are often sexually exploited as well. Labor trafficking can also occur within debt bondage, as women and girls are forced to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful “debt” purportedly incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their crude “sale,” which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free.

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2) Sex Trafficking

• Commercial sex completed by force, fraud, or coercion
• Victims founds in: brothels, street prostitution, escort services,or pornography
• Children sex tourism: traveling to countries to have sex with children

Sex trafficking comprises a smaller but still very significant portion of overall human trafficking. When an adult is coerced, forced, or deceived into prostitution – or maintained in prostitution through coercion – that person is a victim of trafficking. All of those involved in recruiting, transporting, harboring, receiving, or obtaining the person for that purpose have committed a trafficking crime.

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3) Child Soldiering

• Unlawful recruitment of children under 18 by government or nongovernment armed forces
• Children are used as combatants, cooks, servants, messengers, spies, or sex slaves
• Children are often sexually and physically abused
• Children are forced to commit atrocities against others
• 200,000-300,000 children in over 57 armed conflicts worldwide
• Average age: 15-18, but young as 7

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Child soldiering can be a manifestation of human trafficking where it involves the unlawful recruitment or use of children – through force, fraud, or coercion – as combatants or for labor or sexual exploitation by armed forces. Perpetrators may be government forces, paramilitary organizations, or rebel groups. Many children are forcibly abducted to be used as combatants.

Others are made unlawfully to work as porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers, or spies. Young girls can be forced to marry or have sex with male combatants. Both male and female child soldiers are often sexually abused and are at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

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Sources:  US Department of Defense – Combating Trafficking in Persons Program, US  Department of State, the United Nations, and the International Labor Organization

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Private Prisons, Cash For Kids, and America’s Expanding Slave Labor Pool

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Satire from The Naked Emporer

TRANSCRIPT:

“Stan O’Neal from Merrill Lynch scored with the housing bubble at the perfect time, bailing out before the crash in a golden parachute worth $161 million dollars. 20 other chief execs topped the $100 million dollar golden parachute club.

Here is my bet for the sector most likely to produce the next member of that special club.

There is an opportunity in America right now to truly knock the cover off of the ball. It combines all the pulse pounding exhilaration of emerging market investing with the sweet sweet smell of truly desperate workers.

Workers who are not covered by labor laws: Forget about pensions, forget about health benefits, and forget about minimum wage.

I am talking totally captive labor pool…that is growing each and every year with the tacit support and enforcement by the US government.

Are you ready? Have you released the locks on your mind and opened your heart so that we can cross the threshold and enter into financial nirvana?

What is this golden nectar found within this golden sector? Prisons and prison labor!

There are more than 6 million Americans under custodial supervision…Let’s put that in perspective for just a second: that is more than Stalin had in his gulags and they are available to worky worky for cheapie cheapie…

And there is a potentially limitless supply of new labor being brought into prisons every day. And the for profit prisons offers some of the best returns possible. If you pay the right judges, like those two justices in Pennsylvania, you can get them to send you young fresh workers every day. And then once you have them within your private, corporate run prison it’s really easy to keep extending their stay there on any kind of “infraction.”

At .22 Cents an hour, I am comfortable with that.

This is the exciting new frontier for multi-national corporations looking to do business in America.

American Express and GE have been investing in the construction of private prisons and let me tell you prison construction is booming! More prisons, more prison labor.

US Technologies Corp. took a pioneering step, like Daniel Boone blazing a trail through the Appalachians, when they fired their workers and closed their factory in Texas only to reopen it 6 weeks later…inside the nearby prison.

The cat is out of the bag now…we are talking the next gold rush…And we need a Gold Rush if we want our golden parachute.”

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Sources: The Naked Emporer

You can visit The Naked Emporer’s YouTube channel by clicking this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp3kL5KRqbk-8HwZeaQeMZA

Or visit their website located at: http://www.thenakedemperor.com

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U.S. State Department: The J-1Exchange Visitor Visa Program Is “Out Of Control”

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Hershey Chocolate Company Exchange Student Captive Labor ProtestThe blow to US corporate greed spun out of control heard ’round the world.

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More than 100,000 student guestworkers come to the U.S. each year through the J-1 visa program. The J-1 program was created in 1965 as a Cold War-era diplomatic tool — a way to convince young visitors from around the world of the virtues of American culture.

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Exploitation Isn’t “Cultural Exchange”

Today’s J-1 student guestworkers know what even program staff now admit: the J-1 program has been transformed by employers into a vast, poorly regulated, low-wage temp worker program, where severe exploitation is par for the course.

That’s precisely why immigration reform needs to extend basic labor protections to future J-1 guestworkers — together with all immigrant workers.

Abuse in the J-1 program became too big to ignore in the summer of 2011, when 400 student guestworkers went on strike from the Hershey’s Chocolate packing plant in Palmyra, Pa., protesting brutal conditions, sub-minimum wage pay and a complete lack of any cultural exchange.

The story demonstrated how major U.S. corporations were exploiting the program as a way to undercut local workers: the positions the students filled had previously been permanent, living-wage jobs with a union contract. Then Hershey’s fired those workers and used layers of subcontractors to replace them with a year-round succession of exploitable J-1 students.

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Foreign Students in Work Visa Program Stage Walkout at PlantPutting it all on the line, foreign exchange students expose the disgusting bottom-feeding habits of the modern American MegaCorp.

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In the aftermath of the Hershey revelation, the U.S. State Department, which administers the J-1 visa program, admitted that the program was out of control:

“In the midst of unfettered program growth, ECA lost sight of the original intent of some J visa programs,” the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General wrote in February 2012. “The OIG team questions the appropriateness of allowing what are essentially work programs to masquerade as cultural exchange activities.”

The State Department made some changes to the J-1 Summer Work Travel program to try to curb employer abuse, including barring the construction, manufacturing and food processing industries from the program. Acknowledging how far the program had fallen from its original purpose, the State Department said that future job placements “must provide opportunities for participants to interact regularly with U.S. citizens and experience U.S. culture during the work portion of their programs.”

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Student Guestworkers Protest Outside McDonald's in New York's Times SquareStudent Guestworkers Protest Outside McDonald’s in New York’s Times Square

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But obviously the changes didn’t go far enough, for it wasn’t long after that another major case of J-1 program abuse emerged at McDonald’s restaurants in Central Pennsylvania. Again, in place of “cultural exchange,” student guestworkers from around the world faced sub-minimum wage pay and overpriced, substandard housing. The abuse sparked a day of protest against McDonald’s labor abuse in more than 30 countries.

Every time a J-1 guestworker defies threats of firing and deportation to come forward and expose abuse, it adds value to the nation. It protects the job quality of tens of millions of U.S. workers by preventing a race to the bottom.

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Foreign Cultural Exchange Guestworkers Unchained - No More Captive LaborForeign cultural exchange students unchained: giving the typical contemporary American liberal a badly needed lesson in “sticking it to the man”.

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Sources:  Jennifer J. Rosenbaum, the National Guestworker Alliance

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Identifying Victims Of Human Trafficking

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Shyima Hall from Egypt, sold into slavery at 8 and eventually trafficked into the U.S.Shyima Hall from Egypt, sold into slavery at age 8 and trafficked into the U.S.

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Everyone can play a role in identifying victims of human trafficking. Health care and social service providers; law enforcement officials; and ethnic, community, and faith-based organizations may encounter victims through their work.

An informed community member could also be a victim’s link to freedom. It is important to be vigilant and to “look beneath the surface” in situations that don’t seem quite right. One chance encounter could be a victim’s best hope for rescue.

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Who Is a Human Trafficking Victim?

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which victims are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex, debt bondage, or involuntary labor.

Victims of human trafficking can be young children, teenagers, men and women. They can be U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) or foreign nationals, and they can be found in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

Minors (under the age of 18) who are induced to perform commercial sex acts are victims of trafficking, regardless of whether their traffickers used force, fraud, or coercion.

A victim could be a man who does not speak English who is suspiciously injured “on the job” and shows signs of old bruising.

A victim could be an abused woman who doesn’t know what city she is in when brought to the emergency room, and who is accompanied by a controlling companion who insists on speaking for her.

A victim could be a fearful individual who quietly slips in and out of a local church on Sunday morning, or a child who lives in the neighborhood, yet doesn’t go to school or play outside.

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General Clues to Help Identify Victims of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking may occur in the following situations:

Prostitution and escort services; Pornography, stripping, or exotic dancing; Massage parlors; Sexual services publicized on the Internet or in newspapers; Agricultural or ranch work; Factory work or sweatshops; Businesses like hotels, nail salons or home-cleaning services; Domestic labor (cleaning, childcare, eldercare, etc. within a home); Restaurants, bars, or cantinas; or Begging, street peddling, or door-to-door sales.

Victims of human trafficking may exhibit any of the following:

Evidence of being controlled either physically or psychologically; Inability to leave home or place of work; Inability to speak for oneself or share one’s own information; Information is provided by someone accompanying the individual; Loss of control of one’s own identification documents (ID or passport); Have few or no personal possessions; Owe a large debt that the individual is unable to pay off; or Loss of sense of time or space, not knowing where they are or what city or state they are in.

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The Mindset of a Trafficking Victim

A human trafficking victim may develop a mindset of fear, distrust, denial, and conflicting loyalties. Foreign victims of trafficking are often fearful of being deported or jailed and, therefore, they may distrust authority figures, particularly law enforcement and government officials.

Similarly, traffickers may convince sex trafficking victims who are U.S. citizens or LPRs that, if they report their traffickers to the police, the police will jail the victim for prostitution while the traffickers, pimps, or johns will go free.

Many victims of both sex and labor trafficking fear that if they escape their servitude and initiate investigations against their trafficker, the trafficker and his/her associates will harm the victims, the victims’ family members, or others.

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Psychological and Behavioral Clues

Being able to recognize the psychological and emotional consequences of human trafficking can also be helpful in identifying victims. Victims often:

Develop general feelings of helplessness, shame, guilt, self-blame, and humiliation;

Suffer from shock and denial, or display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, panic attacks, anxiety, and depression;

Suffer from sleep or eating disorders;

Become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol as a way to cope with or “escape” their situation, or as a method of control used by their traffickers;

Become emotionally numb, detached, and disassociated from the physical and psychological trauma and display “flat affect”; or

Experience “trauma bonding” with the trafficker, positively identifying with the trafficker and believing that, despite repeated abuse, the trafficker is a loving boyfriend, spouse, or parent.

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Physical Effects of Human Trafficking

While not all victims of trafficking have physical indicators that aid identification, many victims suffer serious health issues, some of which may include the following:

Signs of physical abuse, such as bruises, broken bones, burns, and scarring;

Chronic back, visual, or hearing problems from work in agriculture, construction, or manufacturing;

Skin or respiratory problems caused by exposure to agricultural or other chemicals;

Infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and hepatitis, which are spread in overcrowded, unsanitary environments with limited ventilation;

Untreated chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease; or

Reproductive health problems, including sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections, pelvic pain and injuries from sexual assault, or forced abortions.

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Sources: National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888

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In this video published on Feb 16, 2015, Dr. Darrell Bock, Mike Bartel and Darlene Line discuss human trafficking, focusing on identifying victims in the United States.

00:13 Human trafficking definition and statistics
03:02 Bartel’s pastoral background and the issue of human trafficking
05:38 Line’s law enforcement background and the issue of human trafficking
08:53 Why is it difficult to identify international victims as they enter the United States?
12:32 How are domestic victims of human trafficking different?
14:31 What is Stockholm syndrome?
17:39 What clues might suggest one should alert law enforcement to potential human trafficking activity?
21:04 Find — The procedure for identifying and helping victims
25:23 How can churches get involved with this issue?
28:47 Rescue —  How are people rescued from human trafficking in the United States?
32:24 How is substance abuse related to human trafficking?

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A Little-Known Law That Helps Sex-Trafficking Victims Clear Criminal Records

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Teen ProstutionSacramento police and the FBI recover a teen sex-trafficking victim

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Advocates for women arrested on prostitution charges want the justice system to adopt a different approach. They say instead of being locked up, many prostitutes should actually be considered victims of human trafficking. And they’re starting to offer those women a way to clean up the criminal records left behind.

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One of them lives in an apartment not far from Dallas. Inside, a 24-year-old woman pushes up her sleeve to show off a tattoo of a lotus flower. The deep purple ink covers up an older mark. “If you look closely, you can still see the diamonds,” says the woman. “So it said M and a P because that’s what his name was, and it had a chain of diamonds around it.”

M.P. was her pimp. That earlier tattoo: a brand, to show the world she belonged to him. She has another mark on her back, from a different pimp. “Once they put their name on me, I was their property,” she offers in explanation.

The woman says she spent her teenage years forced into prostitution. It was brutal. “My skull has been cracked, all of my ribs, front, have been broken. Black eyes, you know, regular getting beat up,” she says. Those injuries have healed. But she was a convicted prostitute. And that criminal record was harder to get rid of.

“You know, it’s not ever going to be forgotten,” she says. “I’m not ever going to forget what I’ve done and what I’ve gone through. But, at the same time, I don’t want it thrown in my face every time I’m trying to seek employment. I don’t want to have to explain myself every time.”

Recently, with the help of volunteer lawyers and a little-known law, the woman with the flower tattoo convinced a Maryland judge to help, to wipe away her conviction on prostitution charges. It’s a process known as vacatur. And it’s now an option in 20 states for people who can persuade a judge that someone forced or coerced them into selling their bodies.

Jessica Emerson is a lawyer who helped the 24-year-old clear her record. “This is justice,” Emerson says. “It’s finally giving these individuals their lives back.”

Emerson is leading the way in Maryland, where the vacatur law has been on the books for years but, she says, used just twice. “If you are not addressing their criminal record, you are sending them back out into the world with a bull’s-eye on their back,” Emerson says. “Because the second they go and try to get a job, the second they try to apply for safe housing, they’re going to have a roadblock.”

And the pimps use that to their advantage, says Bradley Myles. He leads the Polaris Project, a nonprofit that fights human trafficking. “Traffickers use the criminalization of a victim as another way to gain power over that victim and remind them of the hopelessness of their road back,” Myles says.

Back in Texas, the young woman with the lotus tattoo explains how it all began. She says she was raped by a stranger when she was just 11 years old. For the next two years, she acted out — running away and fighting with her parents. Then one day, she was walking to a friend’s house, and a man in a Mercedes waved her over to his car.

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“He took me to get my nails done, he took me shopping, I got my hair done and we partied,” she recalls. “And he gave me a pill which was Ecstasy. And then he started giving me more pills, then forcing the pills on me, and told me that I wasn’t going to be going home.”

Eventually, the girl and her pimp were arrested. But police told her mom she might never get back on track. “I just kept running away and every time I ran away I’d end up in another pimp’s arms,” the woman with the tattoo says.

Then, four years ago, a police detective arrived at her hotel room near Baltimore, Md., part of a sting operation targeting pimps and prostitutes working near the airport. It wasn’t her first arrest. But it was, she says, the first time a police officer treated her like a person. “He told me that he saw something in my eyes and started asking me about my life,” she says, “and I started telling him.”

That man is Detective Dan Dickey in Anne Arundel County, Md. He’s a member of a federal task force that finds and prosecutes sex trafficking. “We actually came across this case by just doing surveillance on a local hotel,” Dickey says.

After the arrest, he recalls, “I went and visited her, had a conversation with her and then actually called [a person at] one of our nonprofits that we work with and told her, ‘This girl’s in jail; she’s willing to hear what you have to say.’ ”

Someone from that local group talked with the young woman. They gave her a place to stay after she got out of jail and connected her with the help she needed to get away from her pimp for good. Eventually she moved back to Texas, to be near her family. She had a baby boy last year. Now she’s trying to get back into school.

“I want to provide my son with a good life,” she says. “It might not be the most extravagant. I don’t want to be rich. I just want to live a better life than I have lived.”

Taking prostitution charges off her permanent record was a big step in that direction.

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Sources: Carrie Johnson and Eve Stone, NPR.Org,

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Voluntourism and Avoiding Orphanage Scams When Volunteering Abroad

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Tenby at Savong Orphan Centre, CambodiaGroup photo of the children and staff of Savong Orphan Centre in Cambodia

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“If the orphanage is legitimate, they would ideally have an active family reunification program, but the unfortunate truth is that some organizations, looking to profit from the lucrative business of volunteer with orphans, have gone as far as to pay families to give up their children to the orphanage.” — Jessie Beck

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Whatever your opinion on voluntourism, there is no denying its growth as a new and popular way to travel while at the same time giving back.

Unfortunately, some imitators have found a way to profit from altruistic tourists by running legitimate looking operations that are actually scams – such as the fake orphanages that dupe tourists into paying to participate in this popular voluntourism project.

In Cambodia, for example, an increase in the number of orphanages has accompanied the voluntourism trend. Many of these establishments are genuinely trying to make a difference in a country that undoubtedly needs the service, but hit “volunteering with orphanage scams” into your search engine and you will be bombarded with stories and blog posts about disgruntled travelers who fell for it.

So, with an increase of illegitimate orphanages out there (especially in Southeast Asia) how can you spot one? And what should you look for when choosing an orphanage to volunteer at to avoid being scammed? What can individuals sincerely hoping to make a difference through their volunteer program do to avoid contributing to this unfortunate trend?

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Lotto Mum Jane Surtees with Orphans in Ethiopia“Lotto Mum” Jane Surtees spending time with her orphans in Ethiopia

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Worth Noting: Cultural Differences in What “Orphanage” Means

It’s important to keep in mind that in some cultures, organizations called orphanages don’t necessarily mean that the children have no family or parents. Particularly in countries with a high rate of poverty, families often send children to orphanages because they believe they are more likely to be fed and have access to basic necessities, or because their parents are incapable of taking care of the children because of a disability, mental instability, or drug abuse. In fact, only about 28% of children in Cambodian orphanages have lost both parents.

The fact that many of the children may still have one or both parents does not automatically mean the orphanage is a scam. If the orphanage is legitimate, they would ideally have an active family reunification program, but the unfortunate truth is that some organizations, looking to profit from the lucrative business of volunteer with orphans, have gone as far as to pay families to give up their children to the orphanage.

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Volunteer at an Orphanage in IndiaA volunteer entertains children with soap bubbles at an orphanage in India

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What Volunteers Should Look Out For

Even if an orphanage is a legitimate organization, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s being run well. That’s not the sort of orphanage you want to volunteer with. Not only should you try to avoid scams while searching out a volunteer opportunity with orphans, but also strive to do meaningful and effective work with a well-run organization. A great way to learn more about volunteer opportunities before you depart is to read reviews of other people’s experiences volunteering abroad.

Volunteers should look for an orphanage that runs background checks and has systems in place to protect the children from predators. A minimum time commitment, asking volunteers to apply well in advance from when they actually show up, and assigning volunteers to tasks supporting staff are other signs of a well run orphanage.

According to the Singapore-based Expat Living blog, volunteers often confuse the warm and gratifying feelings of working with children with effective volunteer work, which is why this type of volunteer work lends itself so easily to scammers.

In reality, working with staff to make sure daily tasks get done is far more beneficial for the children than singing them nursery rhymes. It is especially difficult when children get emotionally attached to volunteers who will leave in only a couple of days or weeks. Make sure you have a clear outline of what the volunteer position will require of you, and that the organization’s philosophy lists the children’s development and well-being as their main priority.

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Orphanage Volunteer Program GhanaVolunteers learn to nurse babies at an orphanage in Ghana

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Key Signs That This Volunteer Program Might be a Scam

These red flags will help you quickly determine whether an orphanage is a legitimate organization or actually a scam:

1)  They openly solicit tourists – any orphanage that allows tourists to visit immediately and unplanned isn’t likely a well run or trustworthy establishment.

2)  They don’t request a CV, references, and police reports in advance – well run orphanages should have steps in place to protect the orphans from predators, which means knowing as much as possible about the volunteers they put the orphans in contact with. The more information you are asked to provide, the better.

3)  They ask volunteers to work directly with children rather than supporting staff – although it may be more emotionally fulfilling to work directly with the children than support the staff with daily tasks, an orphanage that requires volunteers to work only with the staff are demonstrating that they have the children’s best interest in mind.

4)  They ask volunteers to pay fees in advance with no mention of how a portion of it is being passed on to help run the organization – any program that you volunteer for should be transparent about why they ask volunteers to pay fees and what they are being used for. Orphanages are no exception.

5)  They allow volunteers to work for just a couple of days – to make a real impact in volunteering with orphanages, travelers should expect to commit for a couple of weeks or longer rather than to just drop by and play with the kids for the afternoon. Be sure to reflect on the pros and cons of short-term volunteer programs before you yourself commit to anything.

6)  They ask for large donations of food – one of the most common ways of scamming tourists is to re-sell bulk food donations for a profit, then redistributing the money amongst the orphanage owners. However, donating goods rather than money (after checking the legitimacy of the organization and consulting them of their needs is a great way of giving support.

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Care Volunteer at an Orphanage in ThailandA care volunteer works with children at an orphanage in Thailand

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Another good way to assure you get a volunteer opportunity with a good organization is to track down local NGOs and ask for their advice, or ask someone who has previously volunteered in the area about their experience. There is no substitute for the kind of knowledge they have picked up by witnessing the orphanage first hand.

Scams and the questions of ethics are an unfortunate part of the reality that has accompanied the boom of well-intentioned travelers looking to give back to communities in need. However, when done right, volunteering in an orphanage has the potential to make a huge impact on the lives of the volunteers and the children they work with. The need for volunteers is real, so don’t let the fear of being scammed stop you from trying. Just be smart and know what to look for!

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Jessie Beck

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About the Author

Originally from the Washington, DC area, Jessie Beck studied in Dakar and Malta, taught in Costa Rica, and volunteered with the Peace Corps in Madagascar before finally ending up at the Go Overseas office in California. She is currently the Teach Abroad & Content Director for Go Overseas. When not at work or traveling the globe, she can be found rock climbing, blogging, or reading travelogues in her local coffee shop.

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